“The story has to pierce the heart of the reader. A great story is always entertaining…and always relevant to life on a personal level…for the reader.” — Larry Brooks
Over at HTMLGIANT, Kyle Minor provides a list of the 137 rules for writing. #73 might be my favorite, but #115 gives it a run for its money.
“I despise the discourse that says we are all shallow, that we are all flighty, distracted, not paying attention. I am paying attention, but I am paying attention to everything, and even if my knowledge is fragmented and hard to synthesize, it is wider, and it plays in a vaster sphere, than any knowledge that has gone before.” — James Bridle
“Write every day” might be the only advice we ever need to hear. The other advice can be great, depending on who’s doing the receiving and what kind of problems they’re facing, but “write every day” is the one piece of advice that is absolutely true for everyone.
But when we sit down at our keyboards, we don’t always know what to write.
And so we sit, we fiddle with items on our desk, we pick fonts and fonts again, we play with our application preferences, and when we’re not doing any of that, we just stare at that blinking cursor.
It’s just one of those days. Our characters don’t want to move; our tension seems like it’s fizzling; and “Oh god, wouldn’t a warm cup of tea taste great right now? Let me just go make that.”
Next thing you know, it’s bedtime, and you haven’t done any writing today.
What you need is a strategy, a set of methods to keep you writing. If “Write every day” is the only advice you need, the second part of that advice is, “(and remember, revising is writing”).
Whenever the wind of inspiration leaves you stranded in the horse latitudes, it’s time to break out your revising strategies and row.
It’s best, on the “bad” days, to focus your writing session on one particular strategy. “Today,” you should tell yourself, “I’m just going to improve the liveliness of my settings.” Then, for the next couple of hours, just scan through your existing text and do exactly that. Don’t pay attention to your character descriptions, or your dialogue, or your plot developments, or anything else. Just focus on your settings.
On the next bad day, tell yourself, “Today, I’m going to fix all my tense errors.” If your draft is of any significant length, fixing the inadvertent errors that sneak into every early draft could take you an hour or more. After all, you’ll have to correct them anyway, so why not correct them today, when the muse is off porking someone else?
There are any number of strategies you can use for a writing session, from improving character descriptions to revising dialogue tags to doing nothing else but improving the first and last paragraphs of each one of your chapters.
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re writing, and as long as you remember, revising is writing.
“The appropriate measure for determining how much your books can earn you in digital is forever.” — Barry Eisler
Andy Selsberg explores his vision for freshman composition classes in Teaching to the Text Message: “I’ve been teaching college freshmen to write the five-paragraph essay and its bully of a cousin, the research paper, for years. But these forms invite font-size manipulation, plagiarism and clichés. We need to set our sights not lower, but shorter.”
Jennifer Lawler pens a beautiful piece On arriving, one that lovingly explores the reasons why “being a writer is a hard, confusing, thankless kind of life, except for the times when it isn’t.”